Ask the Doctor: What are my chances of quitting smoking successfully?

It’s true that most smokers make repeated attempts before quitting successfully.1 Relapse in the first few weeks of quitting is common.1 So, you might find yourself asking “What are my chances of quitting smoking successfully?”

According to Dr Hester Wilson, a Sydney-based GP and addiction expert, it can take many quit attempts for a person to give up smoking.1 But don’t let that discourage you.

“You may do it the first time, or it may take you longer,” says Dr Wilson. “It really depends on the person.”

Based on Dr. Wilson's clinical experience, she suggests three key strategies to help improve your chances of quitting smoking.

1. Find your unique ‘driver’

“Find that thing that’s really important to you,” suggests Dr Wilson. “Finding a unique ‘driver’ can be one way to help focus your quit attempt.”

For some smokers, this may be the love of a family member or even the desire to start a family. Every smoker is different, and so is their motivation to quit.

2. Have a positive mindset

“You’ve got to coach yourself, support yourself, be your own cheerleader,” suggests Dr Wilson. “Understand that what you are doing is hard. You’re doing the best you can. And you may not get it right the first time. It’s ok. Lapses will happen. That’s normal.”

Dr Wilson has seen many patients lapse back to smoking after a quit attempt and give themselves an incredibly hard time. These patients feel like they have failed. But Dr Wilson encourages them to find the positives in their quit attempt.

“If my patients feel like they’re useless or they’ve failed, I turn that around and reframe it,’ explains Dr Wilson. “I’ll ask ‘How long did you actually manage to not have a cigarette for?’ Find the positive, find what worked and identify what the triggers were for the lapse.”

Dr Wilson explains that every quit attempt is an opportunity to learn and gain skills that you can use to make your next quit attempt more successful.

3. Talk to your doctor

Support from a healthcare professional can make a big difference to a successful quit attempt. In fact, you’re up to 4x more likely to succeed in quitting with the help of a healthcare professional compared to quitting unaided.2

“A dedicated healthcare professional can support you through your quit attempts and help you tackle the issues that you struggle with the most,” says Dr Wilson.

So, whether it takes you one or many attempts to quit smoking successfully, remember that you’re not alone. It’s normal to have many quit attempts1, so don’t get discouraged. Find your driver, keep a positive mindset and don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor to get the extra support to help you quit smoking for good.

©Pfizer 2018. Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney, Australia. PP-CHM-AUS-0620, 09/2018

1. Supporting smoking cessation: a guide for health professionals. Melbourne: The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2011.

2. West R. (2012). Stop smoking services: increased chances of quitting. NCSCT Briefing #8. London; National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.